Greetings. I'm Eric Ellman, the Executive Director of Los Caminos del Rio, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving environmental and cultural heritage of the Lower Rio Grande Valley from Laredo and Nuevo Laredo to Brownsville and Matamoros. (map here?)
Los Caminos, with funding from the City of McAllen, Texas, invites all adventure seekers to help make this summer's 46th annual running of the Rio Nazas in Durango, Mexico the biggest, best attended canoe race in Mexico's history.
The Rio Nazas Regata is Mexico's longest and longest running canoe and kayak race: one hundred and forty eight kilometers of Class I and Class II rapids through gorgeous desert scenery that will unfold before you over the course of three days, from July 10-12. The race is hosted by the Federacion de Canotaje Mexicana (Mexican Canoe Federation) in collaboration with the Tourism Departments of the States of Coahuila and Durango.
It is a fun and festive event that is open to anyone who is up to paddling human-powered craft for approximately 90 miles over three days. Some of Mexico's top paddlers compete, but the race is designed for any weekend warrior tough enough to devote 4 hours/day on a fast-flowing river each day for three days. Typically, about 150 competitors vie for bragging rights and a gold "Centenario", 100 grams of pure Mexican gold. About 4,000 spectators line the banks and accompany participants down river from Rodeo, Durango to the national park that is the river's terminus.
Additional video footage beyond that which can be seen in the 50-second promotional video, along with more information about the race, car-pooling, travel requirements for your car and for yourself will be posted on this blog as soon as it's available, and as soon as your questions start coming in. And that -- amigos -- is valuable information in itself: this grass roots effort, supported by a coterie of hard-core canoe fans in South Texas and a ton of good will from Mexico lovers everywhere, is definitely a spontaneous affair.
For about two years, Los Caminos has actively promoted paddling on the Rio Grande . With year-round warm weather, clean reliable flows, some of the best bird-watching in the country, historic cities on both banks we believe it's one of the most under-utilized rivers in the country. So imagine our surprise when we discovered that we had friends across the border that felt the same about THEIR river, the Nazas.
Last November 1, our friends Diego Garcia and Felipe de Jesus Salinas, representing state chapters of the Mexican Canoe Federation, helped us stage the first ever BIG River Festival (link to univision story here). The festival was modest in number (about 40 competitors) but huge in impact. It demonstrated for all the world that federal authorities like the International Boundary and Water Commission and even the Department of Homeland Security would cooperate and even encourage such activities. We learned that the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the Mexican American War also preserved the rights of citizens of both countries to make full use -- bank to bank -- of the Rio Grande as a recreational resource. (link to 1848 Treaty language photo)
We also learned of the VAST potential the river represented for tourism, for education and for creating jobs for the people who live on either shore.
Following the success of the Big River Festival, the City of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico decided to sponsor its own big river festival: the Laredos Rio Fest (jointly held with the U.S. city of Laredo, Texas) will feature $28,000 of cash purses next October 17. And planning is already underway for the 2010 BIG River Festival here in McAllen.
But before either of those events, comes our friends and the Rio Nazas. Will you join us in visiting them, participating in their event, and extending a warm invitation for them to come visit ours?
In just 2 1/2 weeks we invite every paddler in the nation to meet in McAllen to form a caravan and visit our Mexican Canoe Federation brethren. It's a 10-hour drive. The cost to participate in the regata is $200 pesos and includes all your meals prepared riverside with Mexican paddlers from around the 'country.
If you're interested in being part of a historic event that helps reform how the world views the U.S.-Mexico border region, here's what you need to know:
•200 pesos buys you participation in the regata and your meals. NOTHING ELSE.
•participants will car pool from mcallen, one day's full drive to Durango.
•we're still looking for a large truck to carry extra canoes and kayaks
•if we find one, that many more people will be able to leave their vehicles in Mcallen while their boats are transported for them
•we'll help all those who drive get car permits for their vehicles prior to or on the morning of departure at 6:00 a.m.
•to get a car permit you need your title and a credit card. (the cost of a car permit for 6 months is about $28)
•car insurance for mexico is necessary and can be purchased in McAllen
•we're working on discounted hotel rooms for those associated with the caravan who arrive early and want to overnight on their way back. check back.
•camping is possible about 8 miles from McAllen at a protected campground near the Rio Grande for $2/night.
•this blog is intended to function as a discussion board, so send your questions this way.
Hope to be hearing from you -- and to see you all on the Border -- soon!